Opinion: Rick Santorum's Violent Torpedo of Truth

Rick Santorum's presidential campaign is like Charlie Sheen's Violent Torpedo of Truth: Defeat is Not an Option stand-up tour: a disorganized mess of lunatic rants, doomed to failure but veering from one state to another regardless, awing people more with the sheer magnitude of its badness than with its message.  

What made Sheen's show such a disaster was the total disconnect between him and his audience. He’d get up on stage and rant off-the-cuff for an hour or two about his own personal quibbles without ever getting to the big-picture stuff that people cared about—Two and a Half Men, hooker-gate, etc. One write-up complained that Sheen had mentioned Two and a Half Men just once the whole night. And audiences hated that. People heckled him. People booed him. People walked out of the show. Entertainment Weekly heard one NYC spectator call it "worse than Chernobyl."

That’s more or less Rick Santorum’s campaign. But Santorum’s performances have been even more tone-deaf than Sheen's because Sheen at least has the luxury to go off-message. Santorum has to appeal to everybody. In this campaign alone, he's said that abortions "traumatize" rape victims, that contraception is "dangerous," and that gay marriage is comparable to "man-on-dog" sex. And while 82 percent deemed economic issues important in the latest Rasmussen poll, Santorum has spent more TV time on the social ones that have defined him since the Terri Schiavo case. He told ABC News last week that separation of church and state makes him “want to throw up.”

The results have been predictable. Just as Charlie Sheen got "booed off stage by a hostile crowd after delivering a poorly planned show filled with faux-Biblical preaching," so Santorum got booed off stage by the New Hampshire College Republicans after comparing gay marriage to polygamy. And just as ticket sales dried up for Sheen—$25 seats to his Radio City show were on sale as late as the night beforehand—so have votes for Santorum. He lost both Arizona and Michigan last Tuesday. And he’s poised to take just a handful of the 10 states that are up grabs on Super Tuesday. 

Like Sheen, Santorum suffered a high-profile firing: he racked up the biggest losing margin ever for a Republican U.S. Senate incumbent. Like Sheen, he’s made a name for himself since then with a bunch of bizarre pronouncements destined to further stifle his career. And like Sheen, Santorum has ridden a wave of people’s sadistic pleasure in seeing a hot mess thrive. That Democrats supported him 3-to-1 over Mitt Romney in Michigan’s Republican primary just underscores that point. The longer he’s in the race, the funnier it gets—at least to Democrats.